Friday, September 21, 2007

85: AOL

With a brand new "upload alert" format, we are kicking off the new season right. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to Issue #85


TUNED IN...With radio listenership dropping, the folks at Emmis New York, home to New York City's #1 Hip Hop radio station (Hot 97), have come up with a new twist to try and lure in people; make radio more like TV. According to Emmis New York director of marketing Brian D'Aurelio, "We're adopting more of a television scheduling model in the way we present content to our listeners…we'll just be more overt about telling our listeners where and when the special parties are." And just how will they accomplish this task? Instead of long programs, Hot 97 will now line up short segments such as: contest blitzes called Hotspots, quick hourly news updates with "Miss Info," and one-hour music segments featuring legendary air personalities Mister Cee, Angie Martinez, DJ Envy, and Funmaster Flex. Perhaps, a smart move for Emmis. But with the Internet, mobile phones, and now radio becoming more like TV the question is: Will the battle for TV's ad dollars heat up even more?

DIGITAL EXPANSION...Here's a little resource we thought you might find helpful. A new website called has launched; offering trailers, filmmaker spotlights, weekly box office numbers, film festival info and film distribution outlet contacts. Since it is still a struggle for Black films to get proper promotion and marketing, any extra outlet to spread the world can help. That's exactly why Chris Pope, a filmmaker himself, started the site. "Unfortunately, the majority of the films by and about people of color never make it to the mass audience...The goal for this site to give exposure to films that fall within the entire spectrum--Hip Hop, comedies, thrillers, action, romance, drama, independents, documentaries, the whole nine." But SupportBlackFilms.Net isn't limiting itself to just African-American flicks. "I want to promote all films of color: Black, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, Native American. We need to start supporting each other's films and broaden our horizons about what stories we tell, who we cast and how these films are marketed."

DEATH ROW DRAMA...Often the lives of African-Americans make for more interesting
film fodder than fiction. Such is the case with the life of jailed Black Panther Mumia Abdu-Jamal. Now a film about the death row inmate, In Prison My Whole Life, will screen for the first time at the upcoming London Film Festival. The documentary, which has the support of Amnesty International as part of its global campaign to abolish the death penalty, profiles Mumia's case through the eyes of 25-year-old actor William Francome, born on the day of Abu-Jamal's arrest. Directed by Marc Evans (My Little Eye, My Beautiful Mistake) and produced by Livia Firth and Nick Goodwin Self along with actor Colin Firth of Bridget Jones fame as the film's executive producer; the film features a variety of hot notables including writers Alice Walker and Noam Chomsky, as well as rappers Mos Def and Snoop Dogg.

HANDS IN THE AIR...We just picked up on a budding project in town. A new flick called The Stick Up Kids, being produced by Black-owned production company The System Within (TSW) based in New York, just started pre-production. Set in Harlem, the film will begin shooting in October. The basic premise is, a group of kids who find a way out of the hood via struggle and success. But once they "make it," they yearn to make changes in their old stomping grounds which leads to the hatching of an idea to take over the neighborhood by sticking it up. Actor Hawthorne James (Five Heart Beats) will direct. And singer-turned-actor Bryce Wilson (Beauty Shop) has signed on to star. TSW is owned and operated by model/songwriter/actor Tariq Alexander, Dr. Debora Heflin and David Thompson.

NO SIMON IN SIGHT...Reality TV has been known to revive careers. And now R&B singers Jagged Edge, whose last # 1 single was back in 2003, tell The A-List exclusively that they are headed to the the world of real-life TV, sort of. They along with Hip-Hop pioneer Chief Rocker Busy Bee and Ms Casey have taken over digital show “Making The Next Hit” as judges from the previous pick of rapper Lil Wayne. The talent search show, which will travel to 31 cities seeking rappers, singers, producers, models, DJs, comedians, designers, will premiere on We are one of the first to tell you about this latest on-line move. The Internet TV venture is spearheaded by entertainment promoter Don P and radio announcer Dave Swagga. We've said it before, and we'll say it again...the Web is opening not only doors for diverse talent, but also for creatives who want to make a make behind the Hollywood scenes.



Thursday, September 20, a class-action antitrust lawsuit was filed demanding more cable choices for consumers. According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the current U.S. pay-TV industry amounts to a "cartel" that maintains profits by offering channels in prepackaged tiers rather than "a la carte." The legal action names every major cable and satellite television system operator as well as every major cable and broadcast television network. The suit, filed by antitrust lawyer Maxwell M. Blecher, claims that service providers and networks have created a "monopoly or cartel," which had "deprived consumers of choice, caused them to pay inflated prices for cable television and forced them to pay for cable channels they do not want and do not watch." The lawsuit also alleges violation of federal antitrust laws and conspiracy to monopolize, and it seeks unspecified damages and an injunction against cable operators that would force then to notify subscribers that they can purchase channels on an individual basis. Named in the suit are: NBC Universal Inc., Viacom Inc., The Walt Disney Co., Fox Entertainment Group Inc., Time Warner Inc., Comcast Cable Communications Inc., Cox Communications Inc., The DirecTV Group Inc., Echostar Satellite LLC, Charter Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp.


AOL Kickstarts Its Diversity Initiative: New Appointment Tiane Mitchell Gordon Talks Inclusion

Companies have been eager, it seems, to jump on the diversity bandwagon. And no wonder, given the void of new ideas and people in Hollywood; it's time to reach out and spice up the pot. Now AOL, which has had a diversity program in place since 1984, is ready to breathe new life into its multicultural outreach. Recently the company announced he appointment of Tiane Mitchell Gordon as the SVP Diversity and Inclusion.

Mitchell Gordon, who has been with AOL for 12 years, was previously vice president of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). She joined AOL in 1995 as Director of Human Resources and served in several areas of HR.

Earlier in her career, Mitchell Gordon worked in human resources roles with Newfield Publications and Aetna Life & Casualty. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she's also a motivational speaker.
Of course, The A-List had to chat with Mitchell Gordan about AOL's plans and ODI, which was created in 2004 by then AOL Chairman and CEO Jon Miller in order to broaden the perspective and discussion of diversity beyond just an "HR" or workforce issues.

Q: Will your major objective be to make the AOL workforce more diverse and inclusive? If so, what steps are you taking to do this?

A: Diversifying AOL's workforce is just one critical aspect of our diversity and inclusion agenda. As a global company, it is a business necessity that AOL's employee base (at all levels) is reflective of a world that is mult-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-generational. As important is our focus on leveraging the benefits that having such a workforce would mean for our bottom line...My team and I partner with our HR colleagues to ensure we have appropriate (and diversity competent) strategies to attract from, develop and retain new and diverse pools of talent.

Q: Why do you think your position is still a necessary today in a corporation such as AOL?

: In an ideal world, my role as a Senior Vice President would be redundant. The culture of AOL
would be such that diversity and inclusion would be integral to the way the company operated on a day to day basis, part of our organizational DNA. And it would be top of mind for every leader in the organization, in every strategy, business or personnel decision that he or she's easy for diversity and inclusion to move down the priority list until it slips off the radar screen. My role is to be that constant reminder that our employees' different backgrounds, cultures and experiences provide a wider array of perspectives and insights that can help better serve consumers and communities in the markets in which we operate. Since innovation and creativity are so essential for our future prosperity, I remind the leaders that culturally, we have to be able to find a comfortable appropriateness for diversity and inclusion and continually link that to the bottom line.

Q: What kind of community outreach does the department currently do, and what else is planned?

A: My team has the opportunity to partner with our Finance organization (specifically our Shared Service Center) to support their supplier diversity mission--to grow AOL's network of minority and women-owned businesses so that AOL can leverage a supplier base that mirrors the diversity of our customer base. We have a talented and enthusiastic team committed to ensuring diversity in our supplier and vendor base is robust and are included in our competitive bid process. One of their recent initiatives was the launch of a scholarship program to help MWBE (Minority and Women Businesses) increase their business acumen.

We also partner with our Community Investment team to support employee volunteerism through leveraging our Business Resource Groups and Employee Interest Groups, two types of employee network groups at AOL. These groups' members work with the Community team to identify opportunities for outreach and serve as company ambassadors in their respective communities.

Q: How successful has the mentorship program been in increasing minorities in the executive ranks within the company?

A: Following the concept of "diversity and inclusion" being additive, my team and I work closely with our People Development team (our learning organization) to embed diversity concepts into leadership and employee training. We've also developed a portfolio of training partners to develop and deliver courses that provide a conceptual framework for understanding and managing diversity.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

A: The hardest part is being impatient. Because I believe in the power of what inclusion and diversity can bring to AOL, I have to consciously work at finding a comfortable tension to make sure we are pushing forward at an appropriate pace for this company and its culture.


The gliteratti was out in full force for the opening night of The Women of Brewster's Place at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Original cast members from the movie Jackee Harry, Leon and Robin Givens were spotted among the gathering that attracted uber casting agent/producer Reuben Cannon, Star Jones, hot shot Atlanta attorney Maurice Bennett, H'wyd publicist Kenneth R. Reynolds, congressional candidate Vernon Jones and media stars Evelyn Mims, Ronda Racha Penrice, Isoul Harris, Yvette Caslin.

Former CSI: Miami's Sofia Milos shoppin' at Toronto's upscale store Holt Renfrew, arm-in-arm with a stud who looked like he stepped out of the pages of Vogue Hommes.